Since 1943, Staples Tuition Grants has helped ensure that no Staples High School graduate is denied a college education because of financial need. The all-volunteer organization has awarded millions of dollars, and impacted thousands of lives.
Its recipients are grateful. So are its donors — many of whom contribute to funds named for teachers, classmates or family members who have died.
Some of the awardees at the 2015 Staples Tuition Grants ceremony.
But many other people who could help — or be helped by — STG stay uninvolved. The reason: Its name.
Some folks think “Staples Tuition Grants” help pay for tuition to the high school. Others wonder why a public school needs money in the first place.
When Lee Saveliff became donor co-chair 3 years ago, she wanted to spread the word that Staples tuition grants actually help graduating seniors and students already in college (and vocation schools).
She and co-chair Kate Andrews ramped up publicity. But they kept searching for new ways to send the message.
At last, they’ve got one. It’s spectacularly simple: A tagline.
From now on, the logo and all print material will say: “Staples Tuition Grants. Closing the college tuition gap for graduates since 1943.”
It’s simple. It’s clear.
And it’s rolling out already.
The tagline appears on publicity for a fundraising event. This Saturday (May 6, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Indulge by Mersene will donate a portion of all profits to STG.
Mersene’s Railroad Place store is a fantastic place for unique items — including “06880”-themed pillows, apparel and more. They’re perfect for (hint, hint) graduation gifts.
Mersene is doing her part for Staples Tuition Grants.
And on Saturday, if customers ask what STG is, she just has to point to the new logo.
An “06880” pillow at Indulge by Mersene.
(Can’t make it to Indulge by Mersene on Saturday? You can still contribute! Click here, or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)
The other day, John Dodig bought a lottery ticket. If he won, he thought to himself, his first act would be donating $20 million to Staples Tuition Grants.
Odds are, he won’t win. But I bet he’s thrilled at this news: The organization is naming an award in his honor.
Now it’s up to the Dodig’s many fans to get the scholarship as close to $20 million as we can.
John Dodig — a Superfan of Staples — has many fans throughout the community. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)
When the Staples High School principal announced he will retire in June, Lee Saveliff and Kate Andrews had the same reaction as many Westporters: great sadness.
But as former PTA presidents, now Tuition Grants donor co-chairs, they knew of Dodig’s great fondness for, and support of, the organization.
They asked if he’d be comfortable with a new award, named in his honor. The criteria: 1 boy and 1 girl each year, who are outstanding citizens, active in Staples activities and volunteerism, known to be caring, open-minded and willing to accept others.
Dodig was honored to be honored.
“There is no better investment than in education,” Dodig says.
“But not everyone — even in Westport — can afford it. Staples Tuition Grants does a fantastic job. Every June, at the awards ceremony, we hear from a speaker whose life was changed by a grant.
“Now, every year when this award is announced, it will be a way for people to remember that education is so important to me.”
Each year, Staples Tuition Grants helps dozens of Staples seniors and graduates attend college.
Saveliff and Andrews agree. “This grant will represent John for years to come. It reflects the kind of person he is, and the legacy he leaves behind. It’s one way to recognize him for his years of service, and thank him for all he has done for our Staples students, families, faculty and staff.”
Funding the John M. Dodig Award is harder than simply buying a lottery ticket. Fortunately, it’s easier than actually winning the lottery.
It takes donations. You have to click on the website, or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, PO Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.
But that’s all it takes — a minute or two, max.
Think how much John Dodig has given this community — and us, individually. Think how important Staples Tuition Grants is to him. To the awardees. To all of us.
So let’s do what we can to make the John M. Dodig Award the biggest of all 100-plus grants each year.
We may not be able to hit a Powerball-winning figure. But what about setting a goal for 2 full scholarships each year?
That’s very ambitious. Then again, John Dodig has always encouraged all of us to aim high, and reach our potential. This is the least we can do, to honor him.
(To contribute to the John M. Dodig Award, click here or mail a check to Staples Tuition Grants, Box 5159, Westport, CT 06881-5159.)
It’s late June, and summer is already in full swing.
A few newly minted Staples graduates are doing actual jobs: caddying and working at restaurants. Some are taking summer courses, to get ahead for college (or make sure their acceptances are not rescinded).
Many recent grads are interning. In 2014, internships are the way to get jobs after graduating from college in 2018. (Although, even then, they might need a few internships before landing a full-time, paying gig.)
But these are not the first internships for the Class of ’14. For a month — from mid-May until right before commencement — 94% of all Staples seniors took part in what has become one of the most important, highly valued and intriguing parts of their entire education.
This year’s interns were too busy working to take photos. So the images here are from years past. In 2009, Matt Takiff (above) worked at Sport Hill Farms.
The Staples Senior Internship program is several years old. But this year it exploded, with 426 of the 463 class members taking part. (The ones who did not had their reasons, including academic or disciplinary ineligibility.)
Forget senioritis. Instead of sitting around for the last month of school, burned out and bored out of their skulls, the Future of Our Country headed to offices, other schools, even farms, to learn about the Real World before actually entering into it.
Thanks to the incredible work of program director Lee Saveliff, every intern has a site, a supervisor and a Staples staff mentor. Each intern must complete 95 verified hours of work — and each week, must write an in-depth “reflection” on the experience so far.
The reflections provide great insight into the world of work — and the minds of today’s teenagers.
Four interns went to New York with MLB.com — the online arm of Major League Baseball. They worked on social media projects, and enjoyed devising ideas for GoPros at every different stadium. (For example: a “tour” of Fenway’s Green Monster.)
But they also had to make a presentation to top executives, including CEO Bob Bowman. One intern was amazed at the vast difference between standing up in a classroom, and a boardroom. (MLB execs were quite impressed, fortunately.)
Several interns worked with the Himes for Congress campaign. (Hold your fire. Republicans had interns too. One traveled often to Hartford with State Representative Gail Lavielle.)
The Himes interns slogged through mundane tasks, like stuffing envelopes. But they also learned the ins and outs of campaigning. They met the Congressman — and Governor Malloy.
And they had to do something most folks older than 25 or so take for granted: talking on the phone.
The interns followed up with constituents. They called likely and uncertain voters. For a generation raised on texting, that aspect of the job was “terrifying.”
But they did it. And their weekly reflections show their confidence in going outside comfort zones, gratitude for learning an important life skill, and pride in doing something tangible, with results that can be measured.
In 2009, Carolyn Ross worked at Taylor’s Floral Arts. She even arranged flowers for her own baccalaureate and graduation ceremonies.
The internships spanned nearly every job imaginable. Some seniors worked in Westport schools (where teachers and — especially — young students adored them).
Others worked at Wakeman Town Farm. Tauck World Discovery. Voices of September 11. Marinas. Wealth management firms. Contractors. WPKN. Country Clubs. Restaurants. CLASP Homes. Harbor Watch. The police. Norwalk Hour. Auto body shops. Discovery Museum. Terex. Jewish Home for the Elderly. Verizon. The public defender. Longshore. Priceline. Law and medical offices. The Westport-Weston Health District. Westport Arts Center. Winged Monkey. Veterinarians. The Bridgeport Bluefish. Yale University. Mitchells.
Many internships — like this from last year at WEBE — involve something new for teenagers: interacting with the public.
Interns were exposed to everything: The tedium of some jobs. Bosses who don’t always explain things clearly. Commuting. (A number of interns freaked when problems at the South Norwalk bridge threw Metro-North into chaos. They instantly gained new appreciation for what their parents go through every day.)
“We know our kids are hard-working, polite, creative problem-solvers,” says Staples principal John Dodig — one of the internship’s driving forces. “It’s nice for the community to see that too.”
It certainly is. But that’s just a side benefit.
The main reason the program is such a success is seen by the nuanced reflections the interns write. The strength of their voices as they describe how much they’ve learned and grown in just one month. The confidence they display as they return to Staples, for one final week, to graduate.
And the ease with which they go on to their next steps in life: College. Travel.
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